Victims or victimised? Nithari families face arrest

By Sahil Makkar, IANS,

Noida (Uttar Pradesh) : His daughter was one of the 19 children and young women whose body parts were found from a drain in this affluent suburb of the national capital. While Jhabbu Lal waits for justice from the courts more than two years later, the judicial system has hit back with summons for charges of abetment to suicide.

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With him is social activist Satish Chandra Mishra, 68, who has also been asked by a city court to appear Friday to face charges under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 306 (abetment to suicide) that attracts punishment up to 10 years.

“The court has summoned us to appear on Feb 6. But we will not be going to court as it will just pass orders to arrest us,” Jhabbu Lal, whose 10-year-old daughter Jyoti was one of those who were allegedly raped and butchered by Noida businessman Moninder Singh Pandher and his domestic help Surinder Koli.

The horrific crime that stunned the country came to light in December 2006 when remains of the 19 — all of them from Nithari village — were found in a drain behind Pandher’s bungalow.

Jhabbu Lal, who makes his living ironing clothes near Pandher’s house, and his colleagues Ram Kishan, Durga Prasad and Pappu Lal, who also lost their children, had held a hunger strike in October 2007 to demand jobs and free registry of plots. They ended their strike after the authorities promised to fulfil their demands in 10 days.

While Jhabbu Lal faces the more serious charge of abetment to suicide, the other three have been charged under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (attempt to commit suicide) — punishable with simple imprisonment for one year and bailable. They are yet to be summoned.

“I will seek all the legal recourse possible and fight till the end. All the witnesses in this case are policemen and they should be ashamed. Instead of getting us justice they are finding ways to trouble us more. What kind of system is this? Can’t someone protest for his rights,” an upset Jhabbu Lal told IANS.

Mishra added: “I was just trying to give voice to victims’ families protest and help them. Since when has supporting others become a punishable offence?”

“It is nothing but shrewd politics by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and police authorities. I am also not surrendering in the court. If we go, they will just arrest us. We are approaching the high court for relief.”

An equally agitated Ram Kishan said: “Instead of punishing Moninder Singh Pandher and his domestic help Surinder Koli, they are targeting us. If anyone arrests me, I will get my two children – a three-year-old and a one-year-old – and wife also arrested.”

Other families will also follow suit if the victimisation continues, he threatened.

The court summons come just a few days before a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court is likely to pronounce the first verdict on Feb 12 — relating to the case of a 14-year-old victim, Rimpa Haldar.

Superintendent of Police (city) Ashok Tripathi told IANS: “They have been served notice. But I have sought details whether the court has sent them notice directly or was it delivered through police’s help.”

“We have filed the chargesheet and now it is up to the court to take further decision,” Tripathi said.

Pandher and his help Koli have been in jail since December 2006. And the families of the victims are desperately hoping that they will be brought to justice. Till then, however, they have to deal with what they say is rank injustice being meted out to them.